It was almost 2:00 when I reached the street door for Tom and Judy’s. I let myself in, stepped into the elevator, and quietly pulled the old-fashioned elevator gate shut behind me. The elevator clanked up the several flights to their floor, and I trudged down the hall to their door. I twisted the key in the lock as quietly as possible, but the bolt thudded back with a metallic thwack. It seemed enormously loud to me, but maybe I hadn’t woken anyone. There was no stirring in the direction of my cousins’ room. A single lamp was on in the living room, where Donna was lying on the couch. She yawned and stretched sleepily as I walked in, pulling off my now-perfumed jacket and dropping it over the back of a chair. She was wearing a long-sleeve, white T-shirt, and her stretching pulled the cotton fabric tight over her breasts. Not that I had needed reminding, but Donna was a very attractive woman. I decided that now was a propitious time to study the floor given that sexual stimulation was more than I could handle at the moment.
She smiled, “I’m glad you’re home safe. Is everything all right?”
“Fine, thanks. No problems. No bullet holes in my cousin’s car.”
“I’m sure he’ll be happy to hear that.”
“Probably.” I collapsed into a chair facing the couch.
“Come sit with me,” she said.
I was tired, but not that tired. When a beautiful woman asks you to sit with her, you sit.
She leaned over and kissed my cheek. “I was worried about you.”
I shifted away from her and said, “I’m sorry about that.”
“Why did you just move away?” She really was a therapist, reading every word I said and every bit of body language. On second thought, maybe it wasn’t a therapist thing. Maybe it was a woman thing.
“This is . . . complicated,” I said. “It’s best if we don’t confuse things.”
“Maybe once this situation is settled? I’d like to see you.”
“That would be nice,” I said. What I thought was: Once this is settled you won’t remember me.
“That would be nice? Is that the best you can do?”
“I don’t mean to be such a loser, but I . . . I . . . don’t know . . .”
“Is this because of your wife?” her voice invited me to answer.
“Partially. I guess. I’m . . . not sure.”
“You are one articulate guy.” Her tone was warmer than her words.
“Look, right now I’m trying to make sure your brother is safe, and that you’re safe, and I’m dealing with Harry’s issues—”
“Uh, yeah, well, I kind of work for him, and he’s got these rules. Or, I guess you could call them guidelines, well . . . I don’t really know. Anyway, I’m trying to make sure you and Richard are safe and that Harry is happy. And . . . and you’re right, probably, about my wife. I miss her, and—” I looked into Donna’s blue eyes, which was a mistake “—and I feel guilty that I have . . . ”
“Feelings about someone else?”
“Yes,” I said quietly.
“I didn’t mean to push.”
I smiled, “You didn’t. I’m such a mess that I would be equally inarticulate if I were talking to Sigmund Freud.”
“You’d be better off with Jung.”
I grinned, “I think you’re right about that.”
Donna stood up and walked to the windows overlooking 13th Street. She watched the last vestiges of night life trickling along the sidewalks below. “Are you doing something dangerous tomorrow?”
“A little bit.”
I joined her at the window, watching the street and sidewalks. The city that never sleeps was pretty close to nodding off.
Donna took my right hand in both of hers and asked, “Why?”
“Because we were right,” I said reluctantly. “Because Richard did kill Edmond Garner and Bernard Abel. Your brother was manipulated by a ruthless gangster, who wants to use your brother as the patsy for all the Wall Street killings.”
“But he didn’t kill the woman in the Hamptons! Richard was here with me and your cousins.”
“I know. But the man behind this can probably make the first two killings stick to your brother. I think a professional was brought in to handle Charlene Mercier, and that means law enforcement won’t find a thing. The police suspect that there’s a conspiracy at work here, but they won’t be able to find anyone other than Richard.”
“He can give evidence against the man behind all this, he could cut a deal—”
“Your brother will go to prison for a very long time or end up in some mental institution.”
“But Harry can keep Richard safe, can’t he?”
“Probably. But . . . there’s another problem.”
She squeezed my hand. I squeezed back, and she relaxed her iron grip. “Unless I figure out a way to stop this guy, he’s going to kill a dozen innocent people in,” I checked my watch, “about twenty-two hours.”
“Oh my God.” Donna let go of my hand and raised her right hand to her mouth, covering her lips. Her eyes were wide with fear. She said, “You’re going to stop him?”
“I have to.”
“You’re not going alone, are you?”
“No, I’m not Gary Cooper in High Noon.”
“Never saw it.”
“Cooper plays a sheriff who has to face the bad guys—and these are very bad guys—by himself. Completely alone.”
“The loner hero. It’s an archetype.”
“That’s not much use to Gary Cooper. Or me, but like I said, I’m not going alone.”
“Should I ask who’s helping you?”
“No. The less you know, the better. For what it’s worth, my helper is very good. He and I worked together in Afghanistan.”
“Can I do anything to help?”
I thought her offer over for a minute. “You could make breakfast in a few hours.”
She laughed, “Done.”
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